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Ghostbusters / Ghostbusters 2 [Region Free] - Blu-ray Review

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Ghostbusters/Ghostbusters 2 - Blu-ray Review

GHOSTBUSTERS

5 stars

1984 was quite the year for movies. Goonies, Gremlins, Splash, Police Academy, The Karate Kid, Indiana Jones and Temple of Doom, Footloose, Beverly Hills Cop, and the third Star Trek all hit cinemas that year. To be a standout in that pack of then future classics is no small accomplishment. It might surprise you to know that none of the above mentioned titles topped the US box office that year.

That distinction went to an ambitious comedic production from those who had pioneered a new kind of comedic film throughout the 80s to great commercial success. Ghostbusters was the brainchild of Dan Aykroyd, a writer/actor of some note with a keen interest in the paranormal. He had devised a plot for himself and John Belushi (who would tragically die of a drug overdose years before), and with the help of director Ivan Reitman and Harold Ramis, whittled what Reitman described as a 300 million dollar picture down to a workable script. Enter Bill Murray to replace Belushi, and the likes of Ernie Hudson, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts, and Sigourney Weaver into the supporting cast, and movie magic was about to occur.

Following the misadventures of three parapsychologists, who invent a contraption to capture and contain spirits haunting the good citizens of New York City, Ghostbusters sees the trio run afoul of both city ordinance and a Sumerian demi-god named Gozer. It’s the latter that proves to be the real danger to the city, and the Ghostbusters are charged with taking their garage built devices and saving the city.

This is just an unrelenting fun movie. From the opening frames to the closing credits, it doesn’t let up. The cast is pitch-perfect in their respective roles; the humour is a perfect blend of deadpan (Murray), slapstick (Moranis) and heart (Weaver). It is bawdy and irreverent, without being crass. It is location centric, with a very New York feel to it. Its disparate comedic elements are blended together organically and flawlessly to provide a delicious comedic banquet.

Production design—especially effects—is extraordinary, from the proton packs to the Ecto-1 car the Ghostbusters get around in. The ghosts are cartoonish, by and large, but nevertheless effective in their respective roles throughout the film.

Weaver makes for a sexy and creepy possessed musician; her evil Barry White impression floating above her bed still is a memorable moment. Moranis, who hungrily took the vacated spot of Lewis from John Candy, is to this reviewer the funniest element in the whole film. Murray is at his sardonic peak as Peter Venkman. Aykroyd and Ramis have their own territory and use it well; Aykroyd’s highlights being a dangling cigarette moment in the hotel, and being blown by a ghost in the firehouse; Ramis has some classic lines: (on being prevented from drilling a hole through his head) “That would’ve worked, if you hadn’t stopped me.” (Upon being asked his hobbies by the flirtatious Annie Potts) “I collect spores, mould, and fungus.” Ernie Hudson even knocks it out of the park with the could-have-been- easily-thankless role of Winston Zeddemore.

It is the cast that drives this film. The story itself is simplistic, this being a compliment, as all the techno-babble could have easily weighted it down. The effects, for the time, are remarkable, and still look great, if vintage, to a modern audience. Music is terrific, the Ray Parker Jr hit a beautiful icing on an already perfect cake. This one was lightning in a bottle and audiences back then, as now, devoured in its every delightful scene. One could never ask for a better end product than this.

Though they would try…

GHOSTBUSTERS 2

2 starsWith the original being such a hit, it was almost instantaneously requested that the boys put together another one. If asking any of the surviving members why the long wait, there seemed to be a consensus that the first was a unique moment in their lives when, professionally speaking, something undefinable just felt right. They weren’t so presumptuous as to dare suggest that the film would be a hit before they’d finished making it, but they all seem to feel that something special was being laid down as they went along. They were having fun, feeling good, and it shows. One surmises it would be daunting to try and recapture that, and so they wisely decided not to rush.

5 years later, Ghostbusters 2 was a quandary for audiences, who were undoubtedly hungry for another go-around with these characters. Since the first movie had become a merchandising behemoth, and a Saturday morning cartoon The Real Ghostbusters had landed to great success, it seemed a very receptive world was primed for a new feature. But many left the theatre cold that summer after seeing what they’d waited so long for.

Did they make a bad movie?

This time around, Dana (Weaver) takes her baby Oscar to see Egon (Ramis) and Ray (Aykroyd) after some weird goings on. The Ghostbusters have fallen on hard times, with lawsuits, accusations of fraud, and all manner of unpleasantness, befalling the boys. Venkman is on some cheap, cable TV psychic show, Ray and Winston are the butt of 9 year-old’s jokes at birthday celebrations, like two clowns; Egon is… Egon, but they’re all separated. A weird ooze is infecting the city, and when the boys reunite to start investigating it, they end up in court, looking at gaol time. When the judge inadvertently causes the ooze to reanimate two men he had sentenced to death, the Ghostbusters are cleared of all charges and back in business. Just in time to save the day from another demi-god, Viggo the Carpathian, and evil dude from a painting who wants to possess Oscar and live again.

All the elements are there from the first one to make this one another worthy entry, but it just doesn’t gel the same way. The writing this time is not as snappy; there’s a certain self-awareness in it that is one step too far on the nose this time. It’s like they know this is moment audiences are expected and pander to it. The actors are natural with each other and at ease with their characters, but the jokes just fall flat this time around. There are some moments that derive a giggle or two, but there’s nothing out and out funny in this one. Personally, this reviewer enjoyed Peter McNichol’s Janosz the most. Moranis gets a good moment in court, being spoon fed by Murray. And Murray has a fun moment taking pictures of Vigo’s painting that precedes Mike Myer’s bit in the Austin Powers movies.

There’s no real effort made by the maker’s to push this into new territory. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it just rehashes the original, but it certainly doesn’t challenge itself to push further or to surprise. Waiting to whet people’s appetite was a smart move but pandering to the audience, as this film does constantly, was not.

Effects are great, Ecto-1A gets a few bells and whistles that it originally didn’t. There are some ghosts, like in the court room, Slimer, then about the most popular ghost in history, makes a couple of appearances, but for the most part the bad guy is stuff glowering from a painting, hardly an interesting antagonist visually.

It isn’t so bad it is offensive to the Ghostbuster name, and there are some fun elements sporadically throughout, but it was a significant drip in quality, and in box office. Aykroyd, forever the optimist, has been trying ever since to get a third movie up off the drawing table, but with the death of Harold Ramis this year, and Bill Murray not wanting to touch another sequel with a ten foot pole, it seems that whatever iteration of the Ghostbusters comes next, it won’t be in the classic mould.

Perhaps Ghostbusters 2 proved that might be a good thing? Maybe an all-female Ghostbusters team would breathe fresh life in? Or a pass the baton story would? I doubt it. I think the original is a rare and precious thing, and recapturing it will be impossible. I hope I’m wrong, but since it’s likely they will press on with a new movie in these remake/sequel happy times then I’ll guess we’ll see.

Ghostbusters/Ghostbusters 2 - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - September 1, 2014
Screen Formats: 16:9 - 2.40:1
Subtitles
: English
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (2 BDs); Digital copy
Region Encoding: A

Gotta start this section with a bit of a rant. In these times of ever ‘improving’ technology, the studios are always looking for ways to make you pay out for a new, new, new, new version of a movie they’ve sold you a dozen times before. Some of those new offerings are a revelatory and significant step up (VHS to DVD, for instance), and some are not…

4K is the new gimmick out there, folks. Why do I say gimmick? Well, let me break this down in layman terms. I’m not gonna fill this us with numbers and pixels talk. Let’s just say as an average, that a 4K resolution picture is 3 to 4 times more detailed than a standard blu ray or HDTV would show you. That’s awesome, right? It’s about as detailed a picture as one can get. There are 4K TVs on the market, but there is ZERO ACTUAL 4K media to play right now. That will change, but the studios have taken to marketing a line of blu-rays, Ghostbusters being one of them, that have been “remastered in 4K”. This means that have taken the camera negative at the source, and scanned a new master in all its detailed glory. What does this mean for your eyes on a blu ray? Not a damn thing! It’s like putting a DVD in a blu ray player and letting it upscale. Upscale is not a native representation of a new master print, and therefore these splashy blu rays that boasts 4K are nothing of the sort. They are standard 1080p pictures derived from a better source, but unable to provide that resolution on a HDTV with a 1080p player.

Having said that (as I get irritated with studios using dishonest techno-babble to try and sell more units), this new master of Ghostbusters, even in good old 1080p from a MPEG-4 AVC encode, is a leap above the previous version. Colour balances have been fixed, grain is less intrusive (but not waxed out of there, aka Predator), detailing is markedly improved, especially contrast and darker scenes. When they actually get to 4K releases, I’m sure the picture will be revelatory. This is a definite improvement over the last blu ray, just don’t buy the BS: it’s not 4K.

Ghostbusters 2 has the same specs, but being a younger movie, it looks slightly better. There was a more cartoonish palette used for this one, and its replicated with a real crispness through the movie (though the courtroom scene has a couple of softer scenes). Flesh tones are the highlight in this one, and bold colours, of which there are plenty, pops.

Ghostbusters sound—a lossless Dolby True-HD 5.1 mix—has the same flaws as the last offering, with dialogue, centre channel inconsistencies and a less than stellar immersion or directional quality. Ghostbusters 2 gets a superior DTS-HD 5.1 lossless mix, and it’s the only thing that trumps the original in effort. It’s a layered, nuanced mix that’s as effective in moments on quiet as it is in heavy action beats. Immersive and effective to the last.

Special features. You know, for Ghostbusters 30th Anniversary, I thought they might go all out. There is some new stuff. A two part interview with a journo gushing on Aykroyd and Reitman, and the restoration of Ecto-1 is cool, but that’s about it. The rest of it is previous release shite, not in HD, and the new interview is only okay. I know it’s probably a big ask to get Murray and Moranis back to contribute, and sadly we can’t hear from Ramis anymore, but more participants and less gushing would have been welcomed. For the highest grossing movie of 1984 in the US, this release deserved better.

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